AUGUSTA, Ga. – An ex-National Security Agency contractor sentenced to five years and three months in prison for leaking classified information will ask President Donald Trump to pardon her in light of his comments that her punishment was unfair.
Reality Winner, 26, of Augusta, Georgia, pleaded guilty in June to copying a classified report on Russian hacking efforts, tucking it in her pantyhose when leaving work and mailing it to a news outlet.
Her week-ago sentence prompted this tweet from Trump: “Ex-NSA contractor to spend 63 months in jail over ‘classified’ information. Gee, this is ‘small potatoes’ compared to what Hillary Clinton did! So unfair Jeff, Double Standard.”
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Friday that Trump’s statement surprised Winner; that she “roared like a lion” and cried when she heard about it in the Lincoln County Jail where she is awaiting transfer to a federal prison.
“When he said that, it just reminded me of everything I’ve learned, in that, it doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree with a person or a policy,” said Winner. “So for me, it’s going to be more about keeping my head down, and just being kind to people and being kind to the president. And that’s going to accomplish a lot more than any criticism.”
Winner said her legal team will send a formal request for a pardon to the president after the midterm election in November.
At her sentencing, Winner took responsibility for “an undeniable mistake that I made. I would like to apologize profusely … my actions were a cruel betrayal of my nation’s trust in me.”
Trump, who has called for harsh punishment of government leakers, had no immediate response on whether he would grant Winner a pardon.
The sentence was the longest ever for leaking a secret government document to the news media. It was agreed to by Winner’s attorneys and prosecutors in return for her guilty plea.
Authorities never identified the news organization to whom Winner mailed the NSA report. But the day the Justice Department announced Winner’s arrest, The Intercept, an online news organization, reported on a secret NSA document it said detailed Russian attempts to meddle in the 2016 presidential election in Florida.
Winner, who grew up in Texas, worked as a contract translator for NSA at its Augusta, Georgia, office. She had served in the U.S. Air Force as a linguist.